CONCERNS loom over a £40 million project for a new football stadium due to a legal battle with a major supermarket.
Bristol Rovers Football Club and Sainsbury’s have become embroiled in a legal dispute over the latter's plans for a new store at the club’s Memorial Stadium.
The club has issued a writ against the supermarket chain for what it claims are breaches of contract over the planned redevelopment of its ground in Horfield.
Despite tension between the two parties, Rovers believe Sainsbury’s have a legal obligation to build the proposed store
The 16-page writ, lodged with the High Court in London, alleges that Sainsbury's does not "sincerely wish" to go ahead with the new store, which is crucial to funding the new stadium at the University of West England’s land at Stoke Gifford.
No action has been taken by Sainsbury’s yet, but the supermarket giant still has time to file its defence to the legal action.
Rovers claim they lost nearly £340,000 due to legal fees and building costs, a result of Sainsbury’s taking too long with the project.
The writ states that club chairman Nick Higgs and finance director Toni Watola met with Sainsbury's at the end of November in 2013, discussing the importance of continuing with the store.
Sainsbury's then submitted a planning application attempting to vary the terms of the planning consent for the new store by allowing lorries to make deliveries between 5am and midnight on any day of the week.
The writ says the supermarket chain's position was that, unless the planning condition over lorry deliveries could be changed, then the planning consent was not acceptable.
The council refused permission for the planning condition to be changed because of the detrimental effect on local residents.
Sainsbury's allegedly told the club that this refusal entitled them to terminate the contract.
In February the supermarket chain informed the club that it would not appeal against the refusal to vary the planning consent.
The club responded by making its own assessments of noise in the area, commissioning experts to carry out tests.
According to the writ, in a meeting between Mr Higgs, Mr Watola and Sainsbury's regional development manager Ben Littman in April, Mr Higgs asked whether Sainsbury's was "still intending to walk away" from the Memorial Stadium site. Mr Littman apparently responded by saying "yes".
In June, the club repeated its offer to pay for an appeal and any extra measures to reduce noise made by delivery lorries.
Both parties agreed in July that Sainsbury's would lodge an appeal, while the club would submit its own application for varying the planning permission.